Sunday, August 31, 2014

Death of a Salesman is a true example of the role money plays over the mind and how easy it is to lose sight of what is truly important. Willy Loman worked his life away and in the end had nothing to show for it. He thought monetary items and being socially accepted was most important, and would bring him happiness; but his funeral proved his theory to be untrue. Willy lived the American dream but was too blind to see it. He had a loving wife and two loving boys, a roof over his head and food on the table. This was never good enough for Willy though and sadly it isn’t enough for many people today. We have lost sight of what is important and have become materialistic beings. We are very much like Willy and make decisions monetarily instead of what truly makes us happy. No person deserves to spend their life wondering or thinking that they are lesser to another person because of the misconception that money brings us happiness. Have you every known anyone that worked as hard as Willy, but struggled to provide for their family?
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The Death of a Salesman is a good example of the powerful influence parents have on their children physiologically and emotionally. Willy’s father left him when he was very young and when he did he took a piece of Willy with him. Willy had little confidence in himself and pretended to be something that he wasn’t to fit in, and his accomplishments never were good enough. Two examples of this is his original reason for becoming a salesman and the way he parented his sons.

Willy had no true passion for sales, but always dreamed of having the same respect that people gave to Dave Singleman and his father. He thought being good looking and well-liked was what made a man rich, and life would be easy. In a way it seems as if Willy was always trying to prove to himself that he possessed the same talents as his father and brother Ben, and maybe one day be given the opportunity to boast about it to them. Willy also manipulated his oldest son Jiff into believing this unrealistic theory. Willy never pushed Jiff or Happy to do well in school, but influenced them to do whatever they had to do to be socially accepted. Jiff wanted to make his father proud so he followed in his father’s footsteps even though it is was not what made him happy. At age thirty-four he finally realized that he needed to stop living in through the eyes of his father and pursue a career that would bring him happiness. Willy’s youngest son Happy also wanted to make his father proud, but no matter what he did Willy never gave him the same respect as Jiff. Happy used women to fill the emotional hole his father caused him to have.

Overall, Willy drove himself mad reflecting on decisions he made in the past and never stopped searching the “right” answers. He never had a father to help guide him through life’s struggles and his own parenting skills suffered because of it. Willy never thought he was good enough and beat himself up every day about the decisions he chose to make, and allowed his emotions to get the best of him. What advice would you give to Willy looking from the outside in? Have you ever met anyone that believed being popular was the only way?
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Willy is selfish and his reputation is his life

Willy is an incredibly selfish and shallow character. Throughout the entire play his entire motivation is driven by his reputation. He's overly concerned with being liked (as mentioned by someone else in their post), and loves his kids based on how they're a reflection of him. He never wants the outside world to know that there are issues within his family. He won't let Biff tell Bill Oliver that he was working on a farm in the west, that he was there working in business. And when Bernard asks how Biff had been doing, he stays vague and just tells him he's been working on "big things" in the west. When Biff says that people laugh at him, he comes back with a list of places to go and shout Willy Lohmans name and what kind of respect he has. Everything comes down to his reputation, because that's how he measures a man. Willy doesn't want his son's success for the sake of his son, he wants it for the sake of his reputation as a father. He thinks reputation is everything. He makes the comment that Charley is liked, but not "well liked", and is shocked at how well his son Bernard's life turned out despite neither of them being "well liked". He's even shocked when he finds out Bernard is working on a supreme court trial and didn't mention it because that's something to be proud of, and to him everyone should know when he is doing something important. (I originally had a different direction in mind for this post, but it kind of strayed away more into and expansion on the other post someone made about being liked. I think I like the points in this direction more though, they're a little more concrete and make a little more sense than where I was going).
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Defining "Success"

Throughout the play, the word "success" is thrown around a lot, especially by Willy and Biff. Willy obviously wants success for himself and for Biff, but it seems like Willy has a very specific idea of what being successful means, while Biff feels like it's way more open. Willy's definition of "success" is the very conventional interpretation of the American dream, with the housewife, successful and respected offspring who's achievements he can be proud of, his son was even a big football star. It's literally as stereotypical as it gets, and this is before "Leave it to Beaver" came out which is usually the go-to example of that classic American nuclear family. Willy wants this kind of thing for Biff, but Biff isn't necessarily sure that it's even what he even wants. He enjoys manual labor and working on a farm and feels like that's what will make him happy. I'm still not sure if Biff is saying that's what they all SHOULD be doing, or if it's just another thing that should be ACCEPTED to be doing. One thing is for sure though, Biff definitely thinks that Willy's definition of successful is a shame and doesn't even exist since they've all had to fool themselves and each other into thinking that's what they have, while Willy just considers everything in Biff's life to just be straight up failure.
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Cobb vs. Hoffman

Now a lot of this is mainly my opinion on the performances themselves and how I think the character should be portrayed but I'm curious to see how people feel.  Vanessa brought up a good point on how different the text can be perceived by two very different actors.  I know the Dustin Hoffman production is up but I hope most of you have seen the Lee J Cobb production in your travels.
The thing about Hoffman's portrayal (and a lot of this comes from being a New Yorker as well I think) is that it makes almost no sense to me.  There's a weird softness to it that I don't like and I feel like playing them as this very New York Jewish family actually makes Willy a completely different character, but they don't bring that up in the production.  He gives him a funny accent but doesn't use any of the consequences of what that accent means.  A guy who sounded like that in 1949 would really only sell to Jewish clients. This is a post war society that has just finished fighting the Germans and the Japanese, any immigrant as suspect.  You couldn't even look "too Italian".  Willy wouldn't even be able to believably lie about being the top salesman and being buddies with all of those people because no one would believe that he'd be invited to mayors homes or paling around with all these different people up and down the east coast.  Not a chance.
And also, Dustin Hoffman is small and he's made to look pretty old.  To me, Willy has to seem like he had "Glory Days" at some point in his life, they're long gone, but he has too seem like he was Mr. Popular, or an athlete like Biff back in his prime as well.  That's why a guy like Lee J. Cobb (Or Brian Dennehy or Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Rod Steiger) makes sense.  These men are oxen, who even when they're older and heavier and out of shape, still look like they could take you out in a punch (maybe two).  I feel like one of the reasons Willy has an affair is becase, back in the old days, he could have had any woman he'd wanted.
A short, slight guy like Dustin Hoffman looks like he's never won a fight in his life.  And that, coupled with an immigrant back-story, could make for a very interesting interpretation of the character, but that wasn't explored at all in his production.

Brian Dennehy

Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Lee J. Cobb

Curious if these feelings resonate with anyone else.

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     Is it just me or does anyone else think that Linda knows all about Willie's indiscretions?  She is just afraid to confronting the true to Willie.  She is such a victim that she would probably blame herself. She wasn't woman enough for the great Willie Loman.
     I think Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Willie is sympathetic but the one that I originally saw had Lee J Cobb as Willie and he played him as a poor moral corrupt man. I did not find one redeeming quality. Willie was a bully. It is amazing the same words in a play but the interpretation of the character Willie between Cobb and Hoffman are world apart.
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The "New Man"

If any of you are Mad Men fans some of this should sound more familiar.
The 1950's (and even more so the 60's) saw the first generation in decades that didn't have to send most of it's men to war.  There was no Great Depression, their was no German Threat or FDR.  This country was built by people who had lived through and seen all of those things and the young men reaping and then creating the new culture didn't understand any of it.  Korea wasn't like Germany and Vietnam hadn't come yet.  Men Biff's age didn't understand The Depression and what that meant to their parents to be able to provide anything for their children let alone if they could actually spoil them.  I mentioned Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in my other post and Williams and Miller dealt with many similar themes.  Big Daddy cannot understand why Brick could want for anything; he'd worked all his life so his sons wouldn't have to like he did.  He didn't understand what more his sons (but of course mainly Brick) could want or need if they were secure and had the chance to enjoy leisure and become an athlete or take time off with their wives.  He didn't understand that they needed love and affection too because when he was growing up you literally didn't have the energy or the time to care about why you felt the way you did and what led to it.  You barely had the time to be sad let alone melancholy.  So when Brick feels stifled and lied to - it comes as a shock, because why should it matter?

Willy and Biff have a similar conflict.  In Willy's mind he has done nothing but work tirelessly so that his sons (but again, mainly Biff) don't have to struggle like he did.  So when Biff throws it away, and then tends the fields because that's "real man's work" and is on a journey to find himself, it's unheard of to Loman.  Not only is his son choosing back-breaking manual labor at a time when he could wear a suit and have wealthy friends, he's also modern enough to be on a philosophical journey of self?  To Willy this is a slap in the face because it's something he could never in his wildest dreams think of doing.  To him, who cares who we are as long as we know what we are, as long as we mean something to the people around us and the people we leave behind.

I mentioned Mad Men because it comes up early in the series (1961) that while Don Draper is in his early to mid 30s, he has more in common with the men over 45 than he does with the guys in their mid twenties simply because he served in the army and none of them ever had to think about it.  Every man older than him knows what it's like to scrape by and to serve while the guys less than ten years younger than him get to watch movies about it and laugh about a war with Cuba.
This play came out in 1949 and we were just at the cusp.  WWII had recently ended and we were already seeing the 50s culture take over.  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is 1955, Willy would have already seemed like a dinosaur.

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Death of a Salesman

               “Death of a Salesman” is more than the title character, Willie Lomax. Willie Lomax had everything a man could ask for and he didn’t realize it until it was gone. He had a loving wife, two sons who idolized him. Willie was always reaching for more than he could achieve. There was no “rock bottom for Willie,” as his neighbor Charley comments. Willie’s definition of success was unrealistic and he bolsters his ego with past glories that might have existed or not. Willie is basically a shallow individual who cannot change and grow from his success and as well as his failures. He is the same man twenty years from his prime, imagining he is smarter, better looking and more successful than Charley. He has to live this fantasy or his life has no meaning.  It is a tough aspect of life that everyone grows old and life is not always fair.  A more self-actualized Willie would have accepted his faults and mistakes as well as his sons.        

               I guess I go back to the quote of Linda’s “attention must be paid.” Linda paid attention to Willie her whole married life. Acquiescing to Willie in a subservient manner and dealing with his abusive manner toward her. I saw an older version many years ago with Lee J Cobb as Willie and to me was more caustic and hateful toward Linda. It was as if Willie somehow blamed Linda for his failures. Linda was the character that represented reality. She accepted Willie for the man he was and not the legend.  She acknowledges his shortcomings but does not challenge him to change. She recognizes Willie’s fragile grip on reality.  At his gravesite she does not understand why Willie could not just be satisfied with fifty dollars a week.

               I really did not like Biff. I guess he was the protagonist in the play but I saw him as a stunted individual who wanted his cake and wanted to eat it too. He couldn’t forgive his father’s indiscretions and from their dialogue it was clear that this was like the elephant in the room that no one mentions. Biff runs away to work on the farm but he really running away from his hurt and disillusionment of his father.  Mature people comprehend that parents are people too and they make mistakes.

               Happy is like a chip off the old block. Neither parent expects much from Happy and he proofs them right. Talk about foreshadowing I predict Happy will be unsuccessful in marriage and in business.  He tries to say things his parents want to hear but do they really listen? If my son told me he was getting married. I don’t think I would have told him to go to bed.

               Charley and Bernard are the two mature self-realized individuals in the play. They both comprehend the tragedy of the disintegrating family and try to help them but in the end it wasn’t enough.
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Linda Loman Ultimate Betrayal

Linda Loman's misguided idea of love ultimately betrays Willy.  In her version of love she wants to live in a world of denial.  She is never really able to see Willy as he is-unhappy at his job.  At one point Willy says people don't seem to take to me and Linda responds,"Oh, don't be foolish."  She cannot confront Willy about his suicide attempts.  Instead she asks the children to kind to their father.  She wants them to continue to perpetuate the myths and lies that have been a part of the household for years. She has no courage or character to deal honestly with what is happening around her.  She encourages Willy's distorted dream of success and contributes to his death.  She is just as caught up in the desire for material goods as Willy.  She needs to encourage him so he will continue working so they can afford the luxuries. Maybe, if Linda had been able to confront Willy openly about his suicide attempts there might have been an honest discussion about what was happening to Willy.  But Linda chooses to turn a blind eye and not deal with reality.  Could she have done more to stop the suicide? How much responsibility do the family members, of a suicide victim, hold? Can a suicide be stopped? Or will that person find a way?
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The Young Adult: Parental Importance

A bed lay desecrated. Man and woman pervert the holy vow of marriage. Bang. Bang. Bang. The knocker is persistent. Willy lay entangled amongst the deprivation of his own misdoings. As sin slowly encroaches, the seemingly endless rattle of wood against closed fist is acquitted within his own thoughts as nothing more than the wrong door. After contemplation, Willy leads his forbidden mistress behind closed doors. The ominous entryway becomes his center of focus. With a slight turn of the wrist, light emanates forth into the dim hallway in which Biff, Willy’s son, is standing. The light not only illuminates the silhouette of the young man, but also the darkness within Willy’s being. The lies were suddenly put to rout. The charade is soon to disperse. Biff is the first to bear witness to the feeble attempts of his father’s delusion. 

Biff confides in his father, “dad, I flunked math...the term. I haven’t got enough credits to graduate”(Death of a Salesman). With little hesitation, Willy becomes enthralled with his son’s success. He quickly dismisses his son’s angst in saying “you’re on. We’ll drive right back”(Death of a Salesman). His intent is to reprimand Mr. Birnbaum for the failure of his son. Unanticipatedly, a snicker is heeded from behind closed doors. The shapely, blonde discloses her deception within the tangled pipe dream of Mr. Loman. It is at this moment that Biff revokes his father’s dream for his own. Adolescents and young adults often times deviate from their natural course due to flaws lacking in family structure, life altering events, abuse, etc. The staple of the household has the ability to alter the existence of those they guide. With one event, an entire story can become diverted to a new conclusion. Willy altered the life of his boys and wife. Can parental figures change the outcome of a child’s success? Do they hold such a power? If so, what can be done to stop the destruction of our youth?   
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Happy has always been the son I've been more interested in in this play.  He reminds me of Gooper in Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", the thankless job of being the "other brother", the brain instead of the brawn.  Not like their fathers, or at least who their fathers used to be, but getting things done instead of being a handsome disappointment.  Happy has another level to him with his interesting relationship with Linda.  The parents take money from their youngest son and expect his support in arguments (which he readily gives) but Linda loudly disapproves of his lifestyle and while not as openly preferring Biff as their father does, doesn't show support for Happy.  This leads to Happy taking up lying about success he's had just to get some bit of favor from his parents.  No matter how much Biff screws up, Happy is told to grow up.  
Many times in stories that deal with masculinity especially as it passes from father to son, the mother is frequently sympathetic or favors the son their father ignores.  Happy gets no such support, despite saying home and helping the family while Biff runs away to "figure things out".  
Happy is the son that stays and works while the prodigal leaves with the money and favor, only to return home and have the fatted calf.  In the biblical "Prodigal Son" story, the father tells his older son "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours." this is never something that is true for Happy. Despite even going into a business profession, like his father, unlike Biff who works the land in order to "find himself", Happy is a complete outcast from the world Willy has so desperately tried to create.  By casting out one of his sons (and thereby "happiness") Willy creates more anguish now not only for himself, but for his younger son as well.  

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A Super Late Introduction

Hey all!  My name is Eleanor (ignore the "Wooden Finger" title, apparently my ancient blog was still in existence when I accepted the invite to this one).  This is my final semester at STLCC and I'm a Film Studies major.  Along with this and some communications classes I'm taking a Children's Literature class this semester which should make for interesting comparisons to the likes of Arthur Miller.  I'm flying back and forth from New York City (my hometown) this semester to help my mom out at home and then I'm moving back for good once I graduate.  So a lot of this work (and definitely the reading) I may be doing from a plane!
I've always been a big reader, both of my parents are and even as a kid when my dad was still reading to me, he may have skipped my "appropriate" age bracket all together, reading me the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Animal Farm.  I've worked on and off at bookstores and museums and my friends and I love going to author events, I'm getting ready to meet the author James Dashner (The Maze Runner series) in a couple of weeks!
I love the Harry Potter series, Augusten Burroughs, Mark Childress and Frankenstein is probably my favorite book.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what books y'all use as examples or reference in your own posts and checking them out for myself!  Like I said I am a film major, I love films of the 30's and 40's and Literature after 1945 seems like a great place for a film buff like me to be.
Fun Fact: I have three tattoos.  A black and red ship on the inside of my left arm, a black a green spaceship on my right forearm. and the words "I've got the something" across my shins (it starts on one leg and finishes on the other)

Me recently getting really into it at a concert with my friends
my best friend and I on our way to that very concert

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Biff: Shot at Redemption

Biff Loman is the only character in Arthur Miller's, Death of a Salesman, who is able to see the family as it truly is- dysfunctional.  Initially, when he returns home and realizes how mentally unstable his father has become he falls back into the old family patterns of living in a fantasy world, the distortion of reality to suit your needs.  He feels a sense of duty to help his father be "well" again.  His plan in to try and borrow money from Bill Oliver, a man he worked for a long time ago.  He tells himself and the family that he is do well liked by Oliver that he will certainly loan him money to start a business.  He lets himself be talked into the sporting goods business by his father and gets caught up in yet another fantasy of making millions and obtaining the American Dream.  By the time Biff goes to bed that night he is so caught up in the dream of making it big and pleasing his father that it seems he will be hopelessly lost to denial like the rest of the family is.

The next day, after Biff sees Bill Oliver he realizes is life has been a lie. He tells Hap "He walked away.  I saw him for one minute.  I got so mad I could've torn the walls down!  How the hell did I ever get the idea I was a salesman there?  I even believed myself that I'd been a salesman for him!  And then he gave me one look and - I realized what ridiculous lie my whole life has been.  We've been talking in a dream for fifteen years.  I was a shipping clerk."

This is point where Biff's redemption begins.  He now realizes the falseness of his life and his familys' contribution to that lie.  He has a desire to change the old patterns and find some new way of living.  He brings all of this to the family, but they do not want to acknowledge this fact.  At dinner that evening Biff says, "Let's hold on to the facts tonight, Pop.  We're not going to get anywhere bullin' around.  I was a shipping clerk."  Willy responds by saying he is not interested in stories about the past.  Later in the evening, Biff again tries to have an honest discussion and states that there has never been ten minutes of truth in the house.

Biff is willing to look at the family in an honest light to figure out who he is and what he wants out of life.  The others are still in denial about the falseness of who they are.  Is it possible that Willy's suicide will bring the peace and freedom that Biff is so desperately looking for?  And is it possible for Biff to break away from the family and its dysfunctional behavior to become something completely different from he has always been?
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The Importance of Being Liked

In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller makes many points about America and our culture. This is undeniable. However, one thing I picked up on in reading over the text again, was Miller remarking on the relationships we as people hold with one another; more specifically, how it is important to be liked, but how shallow this can truly be. You see, with Willy Loman, you have a man who considers himself to be "liked." Now, it is evident that Willy is liked by his associates, but they aren't friends of his. In fact, Willy has one friend: his neighbor, Charley. Aside from that, his relationships are based off of work. Charley is the only real connection he has, and the only person who really sympathizes with Willy. As a popular salesperson in New England, Willy risks losing those who he is "liked" by with being fired. To him, he's losing the people who, while not his friends, treated him well, and gave him their utmost respect. In losing his job, he's losing the only small connection they hold.
Now, stepping back a bit to the idea of being like; Willy is very passionate about people liking him. He believes the only way to get ahead, to succeed, is to have people like you. This is more important to Willy than any actual skill set. He lets this out early on, when describing Biff in high school: "He could be big in no time. My God! Remember how they used to follow him around in high school? When he smiled at one of them their faces lit up" (Miller). There is an example in the play of how Willy's creed has led him down the wrong path, though. Remember Bernard, from Biff's high school? He was not so well liked, yet he became a successful lawyer. I think Miller uses this to point out the importance of what to focus on in life. Being liked is great, and it is a wonderful feeling when people are kind to you as a result of liking you, but it won't get you everywhere. Hell, it won't get you anywhere. You have to couple that with hard work, dedication, ambition, and securing a set of skills which allow you to succeed. 
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American mentality

Many people in America can relate to the story of Willy's life because in so many ways there is direct correlations to the way we live, and the way our friends and family live.  The direct relations people have to him could be through him or his wife or kids.  He thought he was living the dream, leaving his mark on life, but after going full speed for so long he never got a chance to slow down and actually LIVE. Someone wrote in another post how success is happiness to them.  Willy clearly didn't get that memo, and so many people in America in the past, present, and future have or will also not realize this.
Another part of Willy's story is how is wife wasn't treated with respect, and his kids couldn't stand him. While I didn't like the disrespect given to her, I wished the whole time that the kids would realize what Willy was trying to do for them, or at least what Willy thought he was trying to do. 
Lastly when Willy killed himself he thought he was making life easier for his family by letting them receive his life insurance money.  Throughout his life Willy drove himself to death, then he literally drove himself to death.  While I believe in hard work and having a career, everyone needs to take the time and enjoy the truly important things.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Willy's Mental Stability

Alright well I tried something different and a tad bit outside of my comfort zone. I know it's not the best but hey I pushed myself and I think it's pretty neat to do a video blog post. I really hope you guys like it and maybe I broke the ice so more of us can discuss this way without feeling embarrassed, I don't think you'll do any worse than me. But please comment, let's discuss the pursuit of the American Dream and Willy Loman's decline into delusional mental instability.

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Week 2

The beginning of the play shows the Mother and father talking after work, talking about what a drive he has day in and day out.  This talk turns into him reminiscing on his past, remembering good and bad, and his wife assuring him everything is alright.  When he starts to talk about his kids he seems distraught and sad, complaining about being lazy, then he starts going on about how he wants great things for Biff. Once he starts reliving Biffs past, I start to realize what is going on here.
To me he is obsessing over Biffs past because he can't focus on Biffs present state of doing nothing.  Even when Biff was a great athlete in school, he ignored his academics, thinking his ticket was through football.
Willy's inability to live in the present is pretty depressing.  He is constantly living in the past because of denial and regret.  Once his wife begins talking about his suicidal actions this just gets even darker.  His mind is lost and to him his life was a failure.
This play made me uneasy because of how realistic it is.  These things happen in real life and I'm sure a very high percentage of people can relate to someone in this play.  I personally had a friend whose parents let him do whatever he wanted in high school because he was a good athlete, they thought he was on top of the world.  Last I hear about him was that he was in and out of rehab for drugs. As far as Willy, I know that people really do work themselves to death, and by the time it's too late they wished they did things differently.
It makes me rethink how to live a balanced life.  When family, friends, work, money, and stress are all taking up time, at what point does happiness need to be the driving factor in life.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Divergent Roads of Success: Happiness and Wealth

As the curtain rises, “a melody is heard, played upon a flute. It is small and fine”(Act One). As the faint sound of notes trickle through the lives of the Lomans' and those who surround them it becomes apparent that its significance is confounding. The flute has an inevitable nature to drift away.  The first mention of the flute is in Act One as Willy remembers his father, the latter Loman. He was a traveling flute salesman. Willy’s dreams of success first become askew as he recalls his father's achievements. The perception of Willy’s father drives him to attain prosperity of his own, but what is the driving force of “success?” Wealth? Happiness? Willy sets to prove the correlation between the two only to find that dreams can be unattainable, but happiness is merely a choice to be made. The roads were distinct (thought derived from Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken"). Willy chose the road of death as he encapsulated his life within an unattainable idea. 

Willy ascends into a trance-like state “as the entire house and surroundings become covered with leaves. Music insinuates itself as the leaves appear”(Act One). He recalls fond memories with his son. In a sense, the flute assimilates the road he could have taken and the missed opportunities along the way. It appears as though Willy has difficulty acknowledging the success he attained solely within his own home. Willy ultimately drove himself down a road of destruction. 

The lull of a memory once lost takes hold of Willy. “Ben’s music is heard”(Act One).  Admiration pours out of Willy as he recalls his recently departed brother Ben and his profound success. Willy’s depression contorts his view of Ben. He only sees the insurmountable wealth his brother has acquired. His being is shattered as he knows he can never attain such a wealth in his lifetime. 

Willy Loman allows the success of others to determine his own happiness, inevitably leading to his own demise. The dream of success cannot be defined. Willy chose a road in which he believed success was contingent on the endowments brought upon him by business. The absolute consequence of the path chosen by Willy was death.  As Linda summons the courage to address the suicide of her husband, Willy, “the flute begins, not far away, playing behind her speech”(Requim). As the last flow of air transcends through the wind instrument so does the end of an era. Biff whispers to his mother, “we’re free”(Requim). The insurmountable idea of success perishes with Willy Loman. If Willy would have recognized the significance of happiness within his own life could he have been saved? What does this say for society as a whole? Does Society overlook happiness in an attempt to attain success? What is the end result? 
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Delusional Living

Delusional Living
After reading and watching Death of a Salesman, I come to understand how someone’s realities can become distorted; the reality of past and present, the reality between truth and lies, and the reality of depression, anxiety, anger, and obsessive behavior. Willy Loman had expressed all of these from the beginning throughout the end of the play. Willy had a false perception that his son Biff could work for Bill Oliver and become a salesman like his father, however Biff didn’t agree with him and only seen himself as a thief and a stock boy. Biff seemed to lose all faith in himself after failing a math test, and lost all faith and respect for his father after finding him with another woman.
Willy had worked hard all of his adult life as a traveling salesman with very little to show for it. I really think the delusions, anger, anxiety, and depression really took a toll on Willy when he first lost his salary then lost his job all within a twenty four hour period. He realized that he wasn’t leaving a legacy behind, but two children that really couldn’t take care of themselves or their mother, and that he felt that he was a failure when it came to raising his children. So he created the delusion that if he committed suicide that the $20,000.00 insurance money would be enough for them and they would be okay. However, he didn’t think ( like many others who commit suicide) how their loved ones and friends are going to feel.
This play goes to show how we as parents want so much for our children, from accolades to achievements, from childhood to adulthood. Sometimes parents only see and hear what they want to when it comes to their children. As parents we work hard our whole life and want the absolute best for our children, but at what cost do we try to achieve this? Was obsessing or suicide the right answer for Willy, for his wife and children?
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Willy Loman's American Dream

Death of a Salesman is a play I have read many times; every time more excitedly as the last. One of the main themes in the play, which is a common theme among American Lit., is the theme of the American Dream. Yet, unlike those before him, Miller does not simply go about painting a perfect picture. Instead, he gives us Willy Loman. Willy is a 63 year old salesman, who endures a pay cut and is fired from his job all in the same day. Right off the bat, not a "usual" character to accompany this theme. The American Dream has been defined multiple time, most famously by James Truslow Adams; "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" (Adams). Willy Loman is merely a man out to live that dream. He works hard, though his payoff is small. Miller's play, instead of glorifying this dream, builds it up to show a side that isn't so much an dream, but more of an nightmare. During the play, we watch Willy Loman on a downward slope. He is so wrapped up in daydreams, so decayed by his meaningless existence, working hard with nothing to show for it. He may be able to enjoy life, but he is dissatisfied with the quality of his life, which leads him to isolation and illusion. In a way, Willy creates these illusions to get away from his real problems. Willy wants to be successful not only for himself, but for his sons, Biff and Happy. He wants to leave them with something. Once he realizes, however, that he is unable to give his boys these things, and that he is old, and has achieved so little, he begins to see how absurd life is. Thus is Miller's point, I think. Miller wants to portray how the American Dream makes life so absolutely silly. Insterad of enjoying his time alive, Willy spent it working hard towards and empire of nothing. The line that really portrays just how empty Willy has become over time, or at least that I picked up on, was: "eat the orange and throw the peel away" (Miller). Speaking of salesman, I think it goes more than that, instead describing life in a constantly losing battle; the battle for success and happiness. Miller was warning us, it seems, that the American Dream does cost us. We can work hard to achieve greatness, but at what cost? Our sanity, our happiness? 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Apple and the Tree

Parents invest a great deal of their identity in the success of their children. You see and hear it often, a proud parent bragging of their child's achievements. But for some parents that's all they talk about. Willy was fixated on his son Biff, his attention was hardly on anything else. When his son wasn't in the room he spent all his time reminiscing on a football game that brought Biff so much attention and himself so much pride. He recalled the moments in the beginning of the play, speaking to his wife in their bedroom wondering at what point did his son lose his way, what changed things for Biff to send him down the wrong path. On page 11 of the text Biff's brother Happy talks about him being lost, losing his confidence and his humor. Just being a different person all together. But as a family they live in this delusion of success that they create for themselves. Biff had success in football but after that we gave up. At first Biff makes this realization in the restaurant while talking to Happy. He can't recall who built up this delusion that he was ever a "top salesman" for Bill Oliver when in fact all along he was only a stock boy and a thief. But his family built up this idea that he was such a phenomenal employee that not only would Oliver remember him but would be willing to invest thousands of dollars in his proposal. Willy needed to believe his sons would be successful, he needed it so badly that he made up the success and distorted the truth in order to see them in a better light. Because of the Great Depression parents like Willy weren't able to follow their dreams but instead invested themselves into their children, their hopes and dreams were in their children and seeing his children as bums was too much for Willy to handle so instead he created an image of them that he could better stand. I see parents do this often. They ignore the flaws of their children but celebrate their achievements to such a degree that it's seems almost as if they themselves are taking credit for their degrees, for their awards and nominations.  Parents often define themselves by the success of their children and for Willy seeing his children lead such minimal lives without a work ethic or drive to achieve was too much for him to handle. But should parents do that? Should a parent take credit or feel they are due any type of commendation for the achievements of their child? What about the other side, should parents then feel responsible for the mistakes of their child? Should they bear some type of shame for raising an unsuccessful individual? 
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Hello scholars and welcome to Week 2 of ENG 206 (American Lit. After 1945). I really enjoyed reading everyone's introductions last week, and I think we are going to have a fun semester! I just wanted to check in and see how everyone is getting along with the class and remind you of the assignments for this week. Don't worry if you have some reservations about the technology still; it takes a little getting used to, but I am always here to help. We will figure it out together! 

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Sunday, August 24, 2014


Hello, my name is Ami Taylor. I am currently attending STLCC for the semester and transferring back to Lindenwood University where I will finish my B.A. in elementary education.  I currently work for a criminal defense attorney downtown, but I quickly realized that law is not the path for me. I do not have the patience to work with “adult children," but I can work with the little ones all day. I am a very active person and love being with my family. I have a twin sister and she is my best friend. Unfortunately, I haven't been an active reader for awhile now and don't have a favorite author, but I plan on changing that this semester. I am really looking forward to learning more about literature this semester!

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Hi Everyone.  My name is Sarah Stephens.  My favorite book is Atonement, written by Ian McEwan.  I love his use of words and how he brings a story to life.  Atonement has a very interesting storyline and the ending really made me think. I am interested in learning about all the different types of literature that have evolved since 1945 and how that came to be. Something interesting about myself is that I recently returned to school after a long hiatus and I ended up in the Honor Society (PTK). It was a shock to me to be asked to join, because I was not a great student in high school.

The picture is a recent photo of me and all my children (and one of their friends), as we gathered for a birthday celebration.
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Friday, August 22, 2014

Introduction, Week 1: David Schmiedeskamp

Hey, I'm David Schmiedeskamp.  I currently am attending Wildwood to receive my accosociates degree. I am a sophomore.  I have never been much of a reader until about five years ago.  For two of those years I was overseas, and had a lot of down time with nothing to but read.  So I began to read a lot.  I haven't kept up as much as I would like to be reading now.  I have a busy schedule.  I am a high school rugby coach, and play on a men's club rugby team here in St. Louis.  My favorite author is Tim O'Brien.  I have read and reread multiple times "The Things They Carried," and "If I Die In a Combat Zone."  I enjoy his works so much because I can relate to them on a personal level.  He tells the story through the eyes of an infantry soldier in war, just like I was.  The wars might have been different, but the feeling and emotions are the same.  I apologize for taking so long to write this, but I am technologically challenged.  I am looking forward to working with everyone in the class.

P.S. I have tried this 3 times, but my computer will not upload any pictures so next time I will have one of myself.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

EXAMPLE BLOG POST: That last line...

The last line of Randall Jarrell’s brief poem “The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner” took an incredibly striking and powerful turn from the tone and imagery earlier in the poem. I found the first few lines a little confusing, so I am going to leave those for my next post.  (If you have any ideas about what’s going on there, a comment would be much appreciated.) I didn’t realize the speaker was dead until the last line “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose,” which made the poem a lot more haunting (a dead soldier talking!).  We don’t see actually see him die; instead, we first wake up from an image of comfort: “From my mother’s sleep,” sleeping with his mother, into this horrible world in the belly of an airplane (the note really helped me figure out what was going on).  Jarrell writes, “I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.”  The rhyme, “black flak” sounds hard, almost like shots fired from a gun, and the image created is truly one of a nightmare, a sky turned black with anti-aircraft bombs (flak) exploding all around, while this soldier huddles in this bubble underneath the airplane getting shot at.  The reader doesn’t actually see him die; there’s no heroic battle or a picture of him going nobly to his death.  We only get to see the aftermath, and Jarrell states this line so matter-of-factly: “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose,” no embellishment at all.  The language is as practical and efficient as the action of the unnamed “they” (a stand-in for the State?  The people in charge in the government sending these young men to war?) callously hosing the speaker’s blood from the bomber, presumably to be replaced by yet another speaker, another boy sent off to die in the war.  The poem is sort of dreamy at the beginning, but then this last line is so direct, plain even, it is shocking to read, which, I imagine, was what Jarrell wanted, to show how graphic and shocking war is!  Did you have the same reaction to the last line?  Did it sound different from the rest of the poem to you?  
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Example Blog Post: Researching Jarrell


In order to help make sense of this poem, I thought it might be helpful to know a little more about the author and see what a ball turret gunner actually looks like.

I found some interesting commentary on the author Randall Jarrell on an academic site called "Modern American Poetry."

David Perkins writes: "… During the war [Jarrell] served in the air force, though not as a pilot. By 1942 he had published two collections of poetry. The preface to the first (1940) confessed his wish and failure to replace Modernism with something else. At the air base he listened to the stories of the pilots and read newspaper war reports and out of these materials he composed, in Little Friend, Little Friend (1945) and Losses (1948), what remain for many readers the finest "war" poems of our time. They are vivid and moving incidents of combat, told with an exceptionally sensitive psychological insight and moral perplexity. And the emotions of Jarrell’s pilots were in some ways unfamiliar in the literature of modern war. He expresses the pity and protest typical of the better poets of the First World War, the shock, horror, weary resignation and sense of doom common in war poetry, but also a nexus of other feelings; they do not belong just to Jarrell (or to[W. H. ] Auden, whose perceptions helped form Jarrell’s in these poems), or just to the Second World War, but persist to the present moment. The planes have more reality, more identity than their crews ("A Front"). Enclosed in machines in remote sky, the pilots are psychologically detached from the deaths they distribute and fall toward. They are murderers who are likely themselves to be murdered, yet also passive, helpless, and innocent ("Eighth Air Force"). In short, in his pilots Jarrell expressed the feelings of alienation, helplessness, regression, irresponsibility, and vulnerability that our vastly unmanageable, bureaucratic, technological civilization seems to create."

From "Breaking Through the New Criticism" (Chapter 16) in A History of Modern Poetry: Modernism and After (Cambridge: Harvard U P, 1987), 393.

Also, here are some pictures showing what a ball turret looks like:

In this picture, it is easy to see why Jarrell uses the term "fetus" in his note and where the womb and birth imagery come from in the poem.

*Images from Google Images

Do you think Jarrell did a good job of capturing in words the experience shown in these pictures?  Is this one of the "finest war poems of all times"?
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hey, what's up?

I'm Zac Smith. I really like just talking about literature and picking apart decisions in story structure and story telling. And although I do read a lot of pros, I think comics/graphic novels are one of the most fascinating mediums to look at that through. I think the theories behind sequential story telling are insanely creative from an art standpoint, and dialogue with limited narration is an interesting form of writting. I really enjoy people like Brandon Graham (King City, Multiple Warheads), Frank Miller (Sin City), Brian K Vaughan (Saga, Y: The Last Man), Sam Keith (The Maxx), Art Spieglman (Maus), Moebius (The Incal), and Jack Kirby (he really created most of the Marvel characters, not Stan Lee in the way people think. Google it, it's interesting). I'm not going to pick a favorite for anything because I'm not that decisive. So yeah, that's what I've got going on.
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Hello Everyone

Hello everyone! My name is Corey Adams and I look forward to working with everyone in this class. I live in Fredericktown Missouri which is about 90 miles south of St. Louis. It is located 18 miles south of Farmington Missouri. I am divorced and I have three beautiful children Amber will be 22 this coming Monday, Joey will be 20 this year, and Candace is 16. I am currently a sophomore and after I finish my Associate of Arts, I plan on attending the University of Missouri Columbia to start working towards my Psychology degree.
 I look forward to learning about the different aspects of literature which helped society form and cope with events over the last half of the 20th century. I would have to say that my favorite author is James Patterson. I really like the Alex Cross and the Women’s Murder Club novels, and I have read almost all of those novels. He puts so much passion and suspense in his writing. Once I pick up on of his books, I find it so hard to put down and walk away.
I think the one thing that people find interesting or unique about me is that I put my life on the line and volunteer as a firefighter to help people when they are in need. People ask me how I can run into a burning building, and I simply tell them that I don’t think about it and just do what I was trained to do. It’s not about the money to me; it’s about the gratification of knowing that I could help someone when they desperately need it.
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    Hi my name is Lynn Berger but my name on the email says Vanessa but I go by my middle name and I am not very technologically talented.  I am an older returning student and I read constantly but not what anyone would consider great literature.  I hate reading snobs! The reading snobs are the ones that if you are not reading “War and Peace” then you are wasting your time.  I like Jane Austen books and one of my favorite books is “To Kill a Mockingbird” Every time I read it I find some new insight.   I hate reading tragedies and that might make me shallow but I view reading as enjoyment and I like novels that are uplifting in some way.  I have seen Death of a Salesman and Willie Loomis is a sad tragic character but the play does give a person a lot to think about and discuss. The dynamics between the father and son are revealing.  I am going to try and post a picture so wish me luck!

P.S. I hate counting words just to make a longer blog so I apologize if this is too short.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Introduction, Week 1 Katie Pummill

Hi! My name is Katie Pummill! I am a Secondary Education and English major! I aspire to one day become a high school English teacher! I am definitely a lover of all things Literature! I am a huge fan of Mr. Shakespeare! Macbeth and Othello are probably my favorites along with the sonnet “I Consider Everything That Grows.” I am also a huge fan of Maya Angelou! I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings speaks to my soul every time I read it! I enjoy mixing it up with young adult Lit every now and again too! I absolutely love Jeanine Cummins’ A Rip in Heaven. I also enjoy reading novels that challenge me to explore the natural world. Most recently I have read Sacred Feathers, a compilation of short stories reminding us of the subtle endowments given by Mother Earth! I am very interested and excited to read and discuss The Road! I have heard great things about this novel. An interesting fact about myself is that I am a vegan hence the interested in the natural world! I have also begun my first year working with Special School District and Rockwood School District as a paraprofessional! 

  I can’t wait to read all the blog posts and discuss with everyone :)
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Hello everybody! My name is Cory Robinson. I'm finishing up my last year at STLCC, and I'm so excited to be taking this class with all of you! My favorite author would have to be, well, a lot of people! The book I've been reading avidly as of late is Seinlanguage by Jerry Seinfeld. Talk about stitches in your side! Aside from that, I'm a big fan of the classics. As well as some modern authors, such as Haruki Murakami. I have a Thomas Pynchon tattoo, so safe to say I love him as well. I'm excited to finally be taking a literature course again! I'm hoping to discover some new authors, as well as some new literature to add to my bookshelf! An  interesting fact about myself: I run a record label called Carucage Records, and I'm a College Marketing Representative for Sony Music Entertainment. Got my foot in the music business door, so I'm pursuing that as a career (although I'd rather have been an author), it's just what makes the most sense.

Looking forward to discussing with all of you!

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Kayla Hilliar

Well hello there, my name is Kayla Hilliar, but I just prefer Kayla. We can skip the formalities. Who's my favorite author? That's a pretty tough question, I have a love/hate relationship with Chuck Palanuick. He's best known for one of his worst books (it's good but he's got much better) Fight Club. My favorite book however isn't written by him. It's written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, yep I'm a Gatsby fan. It's a pretty amazing book when you look into the historical significance of the time and everything that was happening. I think everyone should read it at least once and as much as I love Leonardo DiCaprio , the movie doesn't count. I'm interested in books I love to read and learn more about context and authors and I'm excited to do that in this course. Something unique about me would be that I'm 23, happily married to a United States sailor and looking forward to having him home from his second deployment before this course is over. So that's pretty soon in deployment terms and pretty exciting if I do say so myself. I look forward to reading everyones blogs and sharing my own thoughts in my posts. 

good luck on the semester everyone and may the odds be ever in your favor!!

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My name is Landon Tatum.  My favorite book is The Hobbit.

The only reason I read it was because my brother basically forced me to, and I had no interest in it at all.  By the time I was done with it I loved it.  I chose this class because I am not too familiar with this subject in  general, and it is something I decided I want to learn about.  I am currently getting my bachelors in Health Information Management at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and have a degree in Health information Technology from STLCC.
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Welcome to ENG 206: American Literature After 1945! (Fall 2014 Semester)

Welcome to the course blog for ENG 206: American Literature After 1945! My name is Monica Swindle, your instructor, and I am pleased to meet you! I am glad you have decided to take this course, as we will be studying some truly exciting and provocative pieces of literature this semester.

This is where we will discuss the literature we are reading by blogging about the readings and commenting on one another's blog posts.  Please view the "Instructions" page for all requirements and grading criteria. 

Your first blog post will be an introduction, due by the end of Week 1 (8/24).  Include at least one image, your name, your favorite book or author and why, what you are interested in learning about in the class, and something interesting or unique about you.  Then "meet" your classmates by commenting on some your classmates' introductions.  Don't forget to +1 posts you like.

I have also posted some sample posts for you to explore to give you an idea what blogging for our class will look like. Comment on these to discuss Randall Jarrell's poem "Death of a Ball Turret Gunner."

I am looking forward to a great semester, and I hope you are too!
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